ABSTRACT

My aim in this chapter is to examine the position of women within the institution of the executive and its related organisations. These positions include the president of the Islamic Republic, deputy president, cabinet ministers and regional and local governors. I will also analyse the obstacles to women’s entry into these positions and their struggle to change male-centred readings of Islamic laws and regulations. An example of this struggle has been the campaign around women running for president in Iran. Presidential elections take place every four years and hundreds of Iranians register to stand as candidates. Since 1979 a number of women have signed up as presidential candidates; however, all female candidates have been rejected by the Council of Guardians (Shoraye Negahban). The Council of Guardians is the authority that is responsible for supervising all elections including the presidential elections and consists of six faqih (religious jurists) appointed by the religious leader and six laymen nominated by the head of the judiciary and approved by the majlis, the Islamic Consultative Assembly (the parliament). The interpretation of Islamic laws and regulations by the members of the Council of Guardians and some Islamic jurists has in practice disqualified women from running for presidential elections. Similar interpretations have been used to argue against women becoming deputy presidents, cabinet ministers and local governors. I argue that some male conservative institutions have taken on the role of the official interpreters of the constitution and the shariah; however, these interpretations are being contested by women and through the changing political environment in Iran.